The Douglass Report August 2002

August 2002 PDF

The slippery slope of medical school training: Could your doctor's compassion kill you?

A distraught, 40-year-old female sat on the edge of a hospital gurney. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and she held on to her handkerchief for dear life. Dr. Lumpkin, a shiny, young, and eager intern, entered the room, his hands in his white lab coat pockets, stethoscope hanging casually around his neck, the badge of his authority, so to speak.

"Oh doctor, I am so glad to see you," exclaimed the distressed woman. "I've got terrible pain in my chest or stomach-I'm not sure which. I think I'm having a heart attack."

Lumpkin, unperturbed, sat down on a stool and studied her chart. "Well now, let's see,

'Mary,' isn't it?"

"Yes-and my pain?"

Lumpkin interrupted: "You are not having a heart attack. Your blood pressure is recorded here as normal, but your heart rate is 140 and THAT reveals you are simply having an anxiety attack that is being somatasized as chest pain. Have you had a little spat with your husband?"

"I don't have a husband. Will you please let me explain? The pain goes through to my back and-"

"Well, now THAT'S interesting," he interrupted again. "You're not married? Well then, are you having difficulty sleeping? Are you overeating or undereating? Do you think of suicide? Do you have low self-esteem? These are all signs of depression, you know."

At that point, Mary slumped back on the gurney and quietly slipped into a coma.

Your doctor has been brainwashed into thinking you're psycho, not sick

And so it goes in the new era of medicine-one that wants to find an underlying psychological explanation for your symptoms that reveals you are not really sick. Fortunately for Mary, Dr. Lumpkin's shift in the emergency ward was at an end and he was relieved by a doctor with some gray in his hair.

A seasoned veteran, Dr. Brightbrain was 50 and had graduated from medical school well before the curriculum began to transform from real, scientific, hospital medicine into a faith-based pseudoscience where the doctor is expected to look for psychological problems first and then look for physical disease. Dr. Brightbrain always looks for disease first, and, in Mary's case, he promptly found it-acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis, a disease that matches all of Mary's symptoms and can be fatal if it isn't promptly diagnosed and treated. Mary was in hemorrhagic shock when Dr. Brightbrain took over. Luckily, he knew what he was doing and six weeks later, Mary was released from the hospital-lucky to be alive.

Medicine goes touchy-feely

I know you probably find this hard to believe, and, granted, there is some hyperbole in the above story, but this touchy-feely medical trend is happening. Dr. John Robinson, professor of medicine and microbiology at Loyola University School of Medicine in Illinois reported in some detail on this alarming trend in a recent interview for Science Insights.

Robinson points to politicians and the media, but I'd be willing to bet that the itch for a change in medical teaching from a science-based approach to a more "holistic" one started with the psychiatrists. They have always been on the fringe of medical science and now they want to take the rest of the profession with them to the land of penis envy.

After 100 years of slow-but-steady infiltration of the philosophy of medicine, the Genie of Compassion is out of the bottle-and most doctors are shocked to find they are facing a revolution in the way that medicine is to be taught.

Compassion vs. a cure: When the going gets tough, which would you choose?

Before you stop reading this report, allow me a parenthetical clarification of my thoughts on the matter. It is true, without a doubt, that doctors in general are not as compassionate as they used to be. Our world has changed in the past 50 years to the point that our grandparents would not believe the moral and social rot that has overcome us.

But you can't teach compassion; you either have it or you don't. People learn compassion from personal suffering, not from a psychologist or his big brother, the psychiatrist. Even when I was in medical school 40 years ago, there simply was not enough time to teach all there was to learn. Considering the astronomical growth in technology since then, the situation is much worse-without adding to the course load by trying to shove lessons in sensitivity down med students' throats.

If doctors abandon the basic science of medicine for the sensitivity approach, it will be a major step backward. The air is full of babble about "communications skills" and such pressing problems as "social, racial, gender, and class justice." What I want to know is what any of these concepts have to do with diagnosing a patient's appendicitis, bronchitis, or even arthritis? People go to see doctors because they're physically sick-not because they need a shoulder to cry out their childhood traumas.

Replacing biology with sociology and political agendas

Dr. Robinson commented that medical schools scrambled to address the "complaints" about a lack of compassion training by hiring faculty members "who hammered home the notion that the rest of us really didn't know how to teach medical students." These social revolutionaries are now in positions of power in pre-med colleges and medical schools.

The reforms taken at Loyola and other medical schools sound like they came from the pediatricians-turned-Bolshevists in California (as I told you about in the July issue of Real Health) and the American Psychiatric Association. Initial reforms "focused on highly politicized role-playing in first-year classes," Robinson said. "This set the stage for all sorts of superficial, one-sided concepts related to domestic violence, gun control, wellness, alternative medicine, spirituality, over-the-top sexual histories, alleged effects of racism on health, and more."

In other words, there is a serious and concerted effort afoot to dumb down the training of our doctors by substituting "flower therapy," "sensitivity training," and "curing by compassion" for deductive reasoning; solid backgrounds in physiology, anatomy, pathology; and hundreds of years' worth of clinical evidence on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The medical Luddites are loose and taking control of the minds of our medical students, beginning in their first year of training.

Robinson added: "Many of us worry that crowding out concepts of human biology and disease may produce lots of warm and fuzzy but ill-informed doctors. Most faculty still hold dear the concept that patients want to be cured first and cuddled later, if at all."

And the "reformation" doesn't stop at dumbing down the curriculum. They even want to change the type of students admitted to medical school. "The idea," Robinson said, "is to de-emphasize scientific reasoning skills and seek out students who are warm and feeling."

Action to take:

If your doctor starts delving into your psyche when you go to see him about a real medical problem, flat out tell him to shut up and listen to what you've got to say. If he takes offense, insist on seeing another physician-preferably one who's been practicing for many years-who will take your symptoms into account and diagnose you based on science, not psychobabble. RH

""Q&A: 'Reforming' Medical Education-An Interview with John Robinson, M.D." Science Insights 2002; 6(7)